let me explain...

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I am really looking forward to the Golden Globe around-the-world yacht race that starts on July 1 this year. It’s a brilliant idea, I only wish that I had thought of it, and judging by the number of entries it seems as if many others also saw it as a great idea. Thirty eight people signed up to do the race, but from the race website it looks like that number has been whittled down to 22, still a healthy fleet.

The Golden Globe race celebrates the 50th anniversary of the very first single-handed, non-stop around-the-world yacht race which was named the Sunday Times Golden Globe Race after the British newspaper that (presumably) put up some money to name the event. Nine sailors started that race, but only one finished. Robin Knox-Johnson lapped the planet in his 32-foot double-ender Suhaili in a stately 312 days.

The premise of the upcoming race is to sail around the world just as if you were doing it 50 years ago. In other words navigating by sextant, eating canned food, no auto pilot, no electronics and most definitely no iPad loaded with movies (porn) and books. Books are allowed, the old print and paper kind only.

So here is my question. Do you think that the voyage was more of a challenge 50 years ago than it’s going to be for the sailors competing in the upcoming race? While the boats for the new race are certainly better engineered and probably better designed and built, there is still a size limit of 36 feet and the boat has to be full keel with rudder attached to the aft end of the keel. There are also certain things that can’t be replicated like the out-of-date foul weather gear they wore back then as well as clothing.

No one is making the sailors wear scratchy wool sweaters and leaky boots and so one would think that the race 50 years ago was much harder. Well here is what I think. I think that the upcoming race is going to be much harder than the one five decades ago and there is a simple reason for my thinking. These modern day sailors know better and that’s going to make it a more difficult challenge.

Let me explain. I once saw a Facebook post where someone posed the question; “would you live in a house in the woods for a week without any electronic devices in return for $2,000?”  99% of those who answered said that they would not, that they could not. Unplugging for a measly seven days was unthinkable. (By the way I was one of the one percent who would most definitely take the money.) Fifty years ago you had no idea that in the future you would be able to plot your position on a chart with pin-point accuracy without having to do a thing. Just switch the GPS on. This is information that these sailors will know while they hang on trying to bring the sun down to the horizon with their sextant.

They will have this information in the back of their minds as they drag out the sight reduction tables to get one of three LOP’s (Lines Of Position) on the chart that intersect to form a cocked hat in the middle of which is your position. They will also have this information as they go days without seeing the sun and have to dead reckon their speed and course, taking into account currents and other vagaries, to come up with a rough idea of where they are.

Think about weather. There will be no information other than to look out the hatch to see what’s out there. Their barometer will be the most useful instrument on board as a rising glass predicts lighter winds and a dropping glass could spell trouble. While the sailors are staring at their barometers they will know that with just a click of a button they could get the very best weather information along with routing information, but that’s not allowed.

You see I know better. I am fairly sure that I could unplug for a week especially if there was a $2,000 cash incentive but could I go for almost a full year without streaming a movie or downloading a book?  I am not sure, in fact I don't think so. We are all so used to living in a modern world that being deprived of some of its conveniences would drive the average person crazy.

Robin Knox-Johnston wrote a terrific book about his circumnavigation called A World Of My Own and in it he recounts what kept him motivated when things got challenging. He was sailing for “Queen and Country.” What an awesome idea and when things got tough he just toughed it out knowing that was what would be expected of him. Do you for a moment think any of the competitors competing in the upcoming race are going to be sailing for the pride of their country?

There are three American’s in the race. Can you imagine them, when things get difficult and  you know for sure that it’s going to get difficult, that they would just suck it up and say to themselves that they were doing it for Donald Trump and the good old US of A? Not sure about that. You see RKJ didn’t know about any of the modern conveniences of the future and was content and satisfied with what he had. It’s going to be a mind game for those competing in the next race to adopt a sixties mentality and push out of their mind the fact that a Red Bull could be quite useful at times. - Brian Hancock

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That's two good reads from Brian now. Much better than rants. Thanks, ed.


I saw online that there was a Superyacht regatta in Antigua. The eighth annual apparently. It reminded me of a funny story. I raced the first Superyacht regatta in Nantucket many years ago. So long ago in fact that the biggest boat, the one that I was racing on, was a measly 125-feet long. I recently wrote an article about a new Superyacht that has just been launched. It is 198-feet overall, had a mast that towers  216-feet and a Gennaker that is 24,000 square feet in area.   That’s larger than 11 tennis courts, but I digress. I was crew boss aboard Timoneer, a S&S design, and it was my job (with clipboard in hand) to make sure that the drinks were cold, that the owner’s wife was well attended to, and that their daughter’s every wish was carried out; and promptly.

The handicap system was rudimentary, but since we were the biggest boat in the fleet and it was a pursuit race, we were last to start. Nantucket Sound is a wonderful stretch of water for a yacht race and we took off on close reach, quickly gaining on the boats ahead. As we got closer the skipper of Timoneer, an old South African mate of mine, paged me from the ivory tower where he was overseeing the helmsman (who by the way was steering with a joystick) and asked me to go down to the galley and look in the freezer and see if I could find a large frozen fish in there. Earlier in the month, on a passage from the Caribbean to Massachusetts, they had caught a 4-foot Mahi Mahi and wrapped it up and tossed into the freezer. 

I made my way down through the plush carpeted saloon, pushed a secret button  located behind the Picasso hanging on the bulkhead. The button opened a sliding door which led to the crew area where I found the freezer and the fish. I was not quite sure what the skipper had in mind but was soon to find out. I dragged the fish up on deck and noticed that the skipper was getting one of the fishing rods ready. The rods were mounted on the stern of the yacht and he motioned for me to bring the fish over. 

We were still gaining on the boat ahead and as we drew alongside the skipper, having hooked the frozen Mahi Mahi onto the rod, slipped it over the side. The crew on the boat to leeward were all sitting on the windward rail but had not noticed the hi-jinks going on aboard Timoneer. The fish was now well astern of us when the skipper yelled, “look we got a fish.”  You can only imagine the looks on the faces of the crew on the other boat. They were getting overtaken, which was bad enough, but the fact that the boat overtaking them was fishing, and worse yet, catching was more than they could manage.

We ended up passing all the boats in the fleet and pulled the same stunt on all of them. We even caught the fish during a spinnaker drop at the leeward mark as we overtook two smaller boats. That evening at the prize giving the buzz was all about Timoneer and the fact that they were fishing during the race. It was only when the other crews swapped notes and realized that it could not be possible to catch a fish as we passed each and every boat that our cover was blown. 

Personally I am surprised that no one noticed that the fish was frozen in a curve from being plonked in the freezer, and when it was being reeled in hardly put up a flight. You see the point of this story is that people are so easily fooled. They were more incredulous that we were fishing to notice that the fish was not only dead, but very frozen. Sadly the Superyacht regattas these days have become far too serious affairs and I am sure that if any crew tried to pull a stunt like that they would be ejected from the event. – Brian Hancock.


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When it comes the the Golden Globe I think I agree, probably harder these days. 50 years ago nobody actually knew if it was possible, now that it has been proven doable it adds another mental challenge into the equation. Five decades ago if a competitor pulled out it was a bloody shame but everyone understood, they were attempting something that might not be achievable. Now they will have just failed and to have that looming over you could be a hard thing to deal with. Also public opinions of a skipper have changed. I reckon that less people will celebrate someone who goes down stairs, shuts the hatch and finishes off the brandy when a storm hits. Still, easy to say from my sofa. Either way it should make some good stories!

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First the rant $2000 is nothing.  Unable to work for a week isn't worth $2,000 unless you earn minimum wage.  So lots of people will say no just to pracitaclity.  

I would if I could arrange the vacation time, but even that is difficult.  That siad I would bring a stack of uncut firewood to be cut, and all my wood working tools and have fun building stuff. I wouldn't mind starting my day chopping and splitting firewood, and switch to cabintry later.  


Around the world isn't the hard part it is the lonelyness.  Most people can't hanlde that whether 50 years ago or today.  It takes special people to deal with it.  

Combined with the limited pool of people who can afford not to work for a year makes for a small group of people


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If I am correct, should the shit hit the fan, a button can be pressed and international rescue will be on the way. With that knowledge a great worry can be lifted off the skippers shoulders making this edition of the race a little less stressful. I think Brian Hancock an excellent and well informed writer ever so slightly tarnished by his occasional sexist deviations. Keep at it!

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